Owen Coyle and Dominic Kinnear may be inextricably linked these days through their recent coaching moves.
Kinnear left the Houston Dynamo at the end of last season to take over head coaching duties with the San Jose Earthquakes. Coyle followed in Kinnear’s footsteps, taking over in Houston. The two will face off for the third time this season when Kinnear returns to Houston for a Saturday matchup (8 p.m. CT; ROOT SPORTS).
But their connection goes back quite a bit further.
Kinnear came to Bolton Wanderers – where Coyle played from 1993-95 before becoming their head coach from 2010-12 – for a two-week trial. There the two struck up a quick kinship with the type of common ground that joins fans everywhere – the love for a favorite club – that still resonates 21 years later.
“Dominic came in 1994 – it was myself and John McGinley, and John was a Scotland international – and obviously, given Dom’s background and the three of us with a great love of Glasgow Celtic, we certainly took him under our wing,” Coyle recalled. “He was with us for two weeks. … He was an outstanding player, and we were all very surprised that [then head coach] Bruce Rioch never signed him for Bolton Wanderers.”
While both have Scottish roots – Kinnear born in Glasgow and Coyle in Paisley – and a love of Celtic, their careers took them away from home in different ways.
Coyle played most of his career in Scotland but represented Ireland at the international level. Kinnear was a midfielder who moved to the U.S. as a kid and played mainly in North America, having stints with St. Johnstone in Scotland and Necaxa in Mexico, and earned 54 caps with the U.S. national team.
“As it was, different things happen, but we always kept in touch because, as I said before, we spent two weeks together,” Coyle said. “He was somebody I really liked and got on with, and we’ve remained in touch ever since. I’ve always checked out his career and vice versa. Through different stages of our career, we’ve always exchanged messages.”
Where Kinnear was trying to join him at Bolton all those years ago, now Coyle is working to maintain the success established by his old friend by implementing his own style heading into this season’s rubber match – San Jose won 1-0 on May 5, and Houston 2-0 on July 10.
“Of course I always love to see him,” Coyle said. “… So yes, there are little ironies in our games, and people come back to their old clubs and things like that. It’ll be brilliant to see him as always, but he knows, as I know, for the duration of that match, we’ll be doing everything in our power to win that game.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.